Life is full of declarations. Some come in the form of political manifestos, others as works of art, and the best as manifestations of love. In France this is the time of year when we have to make our tax declarations!
However, as Easter celebrations come amongst us, we must remember that greatest of declarations:
The Declaration of Resurrection!
Paul sums it up well at the beginning of his letter to the Romans:
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 1:1-5
Paul was so impacted by this declaration of life that he had encountered on the Damascus road that he also made it one of the major elements of his Gospel:
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Easter celebrates the scriptural and historical fact that Jesus “died for our sins…was buried…was raised.” Paul builds up to the glorious resurrection by emphasising his physical appearing to the Apostles – remember the Emmaus road and the upper room, and to over five hundred people! Just think about that for a moment. Some people seem to have a very abstract, virtual idea of Christ’s resurrection, but there was nothing virtual or metaphorical about five hundred eye witnesses!
Believing in the physical resurrection of Christ is so important:
“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” 1 Corinthians 15:14
I do not want to have a” useless” ministry. I want it to be utterly “useful”, totally filled with the faith dynamic of Christ’s resurrection. More than just believing, I want to experience Christ in this risen life and make it my life’s goal:
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11
Vitality, health, peace and happiness can be ours as we allow His new life in us to overcome the sin and pain inherited from the clay of Adam.
“And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15:49
Who is your icon? I want to be an “eikon”, a living “likeness” of the heavenly man!
Own your own resurrection experience this Easter! – it may bring you physical healing and well-being as the Holy Spirit infuses new life into old bones.
“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Romans 8:11
The missionary message is based on a declaration of resurrection.
In the famous passage of Matthew 28:1-20, we see the two Marys going to look at a tomb. The tomb seems to be the final destination for us all…but there is more. Whatever the disappointments of life there is always a new “dawn”. Mission, sharing the Gospel message, must bring this new dawn, this new beginning to people’s lives.
Hard ground quakes open and heavy obstacles are removed. Light invades darkness and angels displace demons.
“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” Matthew 28:5-6
Move from fear to faith. in many cultures Jesus is always portrayed as stuck – almost forever, weak, pale and broken on a cross, while shining over Him is His radiant all-powerful, Mum! In some churches there are so many stations of the cross, and crucified Christs that I don’t actually meet the real thing! “He is not here!” He is no longer in the tomb or on the cross. Stop lamenting and making your life an eternal good Friday! There is obviously a place for the cross – a terrible place where Jesus shed His blood and paid the price for my sin and the sins of the world…but He has moved on into glorious resurrection life. He still bears the scars, but they are transfigured trophies of victory.
Find Him in your Future
“Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” Matthew 28:7
If the cross frees us from our past, the risen life of Christ awaits us in future opportunity and vision. He has gone ahead of you preparing a place of blessing, mission, anointing, Word and service. Move on to join him. Where is He waiting for you?
Get Sent – Tell and Teach
“Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me…Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 7 &19-20
The Lying Declaration
I would have loved to do without this last section. Unfortunately, in this world, a declaration of resurrection will always be challenged and opposed by the devil’s declaration.
The guards in the story could have had the marvelous privilege of being the first witnesses of resurrection to the world. They could have become apostles…but they chose to be liars!
“While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” Matthew 28:11-15
The power of money, manipulation and self-preservation overcame the testimony of life. So often the same evil spirits are at work today, trying to “steal away” the Gospel power in our own personal lives and also in the world. This “anti resurrection” lie is still alive and well today and widely circulated as a morbid anti-life mandate. Many “guards” still sign up to proclaim it, obeying the “instructions” of this world’s spirit, and keeping themselves out of the “trouble” that a strong resurrection declaration brings.
Who will you be this Easter? A guard, a Mary or a disciple?
Declare the truth – declare the resurrection. He is Risen! – He is Risen indeed!